Topwater Proficiency

Most musky anglers would be lying if they said they enjoy anything more than seeing a fish explode on a topwater lure. We all love catching fish on topwaters and I am no different. However for a long time topwaters were my least favorite baits to fish and I struggled to get consistent action on them. Like every presentation, take bucktails for example every bucktail is different. Double blades, single blades, small blades, big blades and endless varieties of profile and skirt material. Each variety has its time and place and topwaters have just as many varieties as any other style of lure. The big difference I see with topwaters is that anglers fail to see the importance of matching the style of topwaters they use to the conditions they are fishing. And that is where I struggled to really capitalize on the opportunity that topwaters offer. I believe the best way to go about explaining topwater selection is by explaining the situations in which we fish them. So that is what I will attempt to do and it should make you much more proficient in selecting your topwater presentation which will aid in putting more fish in your hands!
For all of these scenarios let’s assume we are fishing traditional topwater depths of 10 feet and in with many of these scenarios taking place in water as shallow as a foot or two. There are many baits designed to fish shallow water but when is the right time to snap a topwater on? Well only the fish can answer that question but the most important factor to consider is the willingness of the fish to hunt down a lure on the water’s surface. By nature musky are not a fish that lingers on the water’s surface but only attacks the surface in order to capitalize on a meal under the right conditions. Under each condition; weather, temperature and water clarity fish have a different willingness to hunt down a lure on the surface but your topwater selection can mean everything when it comes to tempting a musky to make a move.
Let’s start with active fish in a variety of scenarios. When fish are active we often fish fast and topwaters are no different. With this in mind my favorite lures to fish when fish are active are prop style lures such as the Sennett Tackle Pacemaker. I always start with the larger pacemaker, at 7.5 inches it is an easy target making a lot of noise and offering a bigger profile. In conditions with any kind of wind or chop this is almost always the best offering. Just like bucktails in wind speed and size are often the most efficient way to attract more fish. To get the necessary speed and noise out of a pacemaker I like to take off the middle clacker hook and replace it with thick bucktail wire which give the lure a louder clack. I also attach a half ounce bell weight to the front split ring to make the bait ride lower thus bouncing around less and giving the lure a deeper pop. A close second in big wind would be the Sennett Tackle Roughrunner.
In calmer conditions where fish are still active I simply slow down my retrieve with the larger pacemaker ever so slightly. Another great choice in calm water would be the smaller pacemaker.
When fish are neutrally minded many of us move away from topwaters opting for a seemingly more tempting subsurface option. However topwaters can still be the best option. When fish are consistently following or nipping at topwaters odds are good that they are more neutrally minded and need a little more convincing then fish with a positive aggressive attitude. However topwaters can still be the best option. In calm conditions often times simply slowing down the pacemaker to a crawl will offer the best results. If they continue to follow and short hit switch to the smaller pacemaker.
Another great lure for fishing calmer water when fish are neutrally minded is the Sennett Tackle Stillwater. This is a very subtle bait and must be fished at a slower speed in order to maintain the correct action. Although subtle this bait makes a very loud tinging sound and can still be used to cover lots of water with a straight retrieve.
In windier conditions the Roughrunner is great lure and should be fished slow enough where it is just rolling over the waves. The Roughrunner requires very little speed to make a lot of noise with a bulky tin prop.
Now think about those days where seemingly no lure is getting a reaction. The few fish you have seen have shown no interest in hitting. Or early in the day you caught a fish and had good action on aggressive style topwaters but in the last few hours nothing has happened. The fish probably went through a feeding window and now the bite has gone flat and fish have a negative attitude. The good news is you know where the fish are. Now is the time to change your presentation to tempt these negative fish into eating.
My favorite bait for getting these fish to eat are dog walk baits such as the Musky Mania Doc. This bait must be fished at a slower speed in order to allow a very slight pause each time the bait swings out. Another great bait under these conditions is a creeper style lure such as the Sennett Tackle Creeptonite. Also a slow moving bait with excellent noise. I opt for the creeper in a slight chop because it makes more noise than a dog walk style topwater. When conditions are flat the Doc is my topwater of choice for negative fish. Many times when fish are shallow these slow moving topwaters get more attention than any subsurface lure.
One of the most common scenarios where these topwater prevail over negative fish is post frontal clear cold days when fish are buried in slop. You were on fish yesterday fishing thick vegetation but today you can’t get a look on a bucktail or some other more aggressive lure. The fish are still there they just need to be worked slower and there aren’t many lures that can be fished slow enough and stay out of the weeds. This is the time to put on a dog walk or a creeper.
Just like any category of lures there are endless varieties of topwaters and each has a situation in which it excels. All topwaters seem to get thrown into the same category and looked at as equals under any condition. The key to success is matching the correct topwater to the conditions at hand and that will give you more topwater confidence and like me will make topwaters your best friend.

Solving Fall Transition Troubles

by Ryan McMahon

 

Fall is a time of transition in lakes and rivers of the north.  Water temps are falling and both predator and prey are on the move and may be found in places that they haven’t been all year long.  In the past when I’ve talked about the fall transition period, people will often question which period of the season, since it is an ever-changing time of the year.  One way to put it is that it’s the connective tissue that holds early fall and late fall together which usually ends up being the end of September and beginning of October here in Minnesota.  Rather than get scientific with statistics and water temperatures, I have simply started referring to early fall as bucktail time and late fall as big rubber time. Early fall is no time to get cute with the muskies; once the water temps start cooling down from the chilly night air, I bring it to the fish with an aggressive bucktail presentation that involves high speeds.  Many fish are in shallow, hard bottom areas like sand flats or rock piles.  Their metabolism is still high and therefore they are willing to chase down baits that are moving at high speeds.  Speed is a great trigger to get muskies to bite in shallow water.  They don’t have as much time to inspect the bait or notice your boat; they get locked in on this fleeting meal and they must react quickly before it’s gone.

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BELIEVER’S ON BOARDS

by Chris Walker

Have you ever felt intimidated while fishing a large “super clear” body of water? I’m talking about bodies of water like the Great Lakes, Georgian Bay or Lake St. Clair. You may ask yourself, “Where do I start, What should I use, How will I ever cover all of this water? These questions have only one simple answer. Troll 10” Jointed Believers on planer boards in the section of the lake that is holding the most baitfish and muskies. Yeah right, if it were only that easy. Well it can be if you learn to master the art of trolling for muskies using planer boards.

Let’s start by analyzing my bold statement in the last paragraph – Troll 10” Jointed Believers… Why? Well let’s see, there is not a trolling bait made that has more built in action than the Believer, where its side to side sweep/wander can cover an amazing 6+ feet and in doing so also changes depths all without having to pump the rod or impart any action into the lure. In 2006 the Catch and Release World Record Muskie was caught on a 10” Jointed Believer, also past experience has shown me that 95% of my trolling muskies in the U.S and Canada have been caught on 10” Jointed Believers and then there is the very well known fact that the Believer has more “World Class” muskies under its belt than any other muskie crankbait on the market today. I think you can begin to understand why it’s my #1 go to lure for trolling.

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Believe In Versatility

With the goal of more big fish and a good time on the water, here are a few techniques you can apply to fish the believer in the right conditions.  The believer can be one of the most versatile baits in my box as it is one of the few baits I find myself reaching for all year.  From spring time till fall, trolling to casting the believer is guaranteed to put fish in the boat.

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Jake’s

Jake

By Adam Oberfoell

The Jake is one of the most versatile crankbaits in the industry. It has been a long time favorite of mine.  Beginning in the spring, my clients and I throw lots of Jakes in the 6” version. It is an awesome twitch bait for working the shallows for finicky post spawn muskies. The size and action perfectly imitate the many panfish that frequent the shallow this time of year. Simply find the warmest water, new weed growth and panfish and you will be into muskies in no time!

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Summer Crankin’

When it comes to crankbaits I have an admission to make; they had been extremely under-utilized in my boat up until a few years ago. This was especially true in Summer time. Crankbaits were something I used to troll when my hands were too cold for casting in late Fall, or maybe I’d drag one behind the boat for a few minutes while I ate a sandwich in the middle of the day. Now I have a one of these deep divers hooked up to a rod at almost all times throughout Summer and Fall. While some baits will go through hot streaks and produce at high rates during patterns where fish are primed and on the hunt, crankbaits will steadily rack up catches throughout the year and reach active fish that other baits will not contact.

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Drifter Tackle Inc. welcomes Sennett Tackle to it’s family of brands!

Drifter Tackle is excited to announce the acquisition of the assets of Sennett Tackle.  We expect to close on the transaction soon.

Sennett Tackle was founded by Ty Sennett.  Ty has put his many years of musky catching experience to work and has made a fine line of PROVEN Muskie catching topwater baits.  The baits have been tested on many waters throughout the world and have caught many trophy fish wherever they have been used.  Sennett Tackle’s lineup of baits includes the Pacemaker, Rough Runner, Stillwater, and Creeptonite.

Ty and Rachel will become very involved with Drifter Tackle moving forward into the future.  Ty will continue to work on designing new products and also remain intimately involved with design and testing matters regarding the Sennett line.  It is the ultimate goal of Drifter, Ty and Rachel to see Sennett Tackle continue to grow into a brand that puts more fish in people’s boats year after year.

For Drifter, Sennett Tackle fits into its family of brands seamlessly.  “While we have great topwater baits in the Musky Mania’s, Doc and Lil’ Doc, Drifter was in need of a greater variety of topwater lures in our lineup,” explains Zach Stechschulte, Drifter Tackle’s National Sales Manager.  “For Drifter, the Sennett acquisition is a tremendous opportunity for both parties involved.  Drifter is able to add proven and successful topwater baits into our lineup without overlapping our current topwater products.  For Ty and Rachel, we feel that we can help them grow the Sennett Tackle brand, and offer Ty the time and ability to do what he does best; catching Muskie and creating new baits.”

The entire line of Sennett Tackle fishing lures are handmade and tuned to fish perfectly the minute you buy them.  Just as with all Drifter products, Sennett Tackle’s baits will be available through leadings tackle retailers all over the world.

Knock on Wood for More Muskies

There is a simple reason woodpeckers continually probe trees with such methodical tenacity – food.  While I have never seen a woodpecker attempt to do so on a submerged tree, I have seen throngs of baitfish taking their place at the great wooden dining table, be it now underwater.  Make no mistake about it – the sight of a sprawling weed bed elicits an adrenalin rush in me, as do the bold hooks on my locator, positioned adjacent to a suspended school of ciscoes, but there is another element that gets me just as interested – wood.  For the esox angler unfamiliar with this musky magnet, it’s time to add submerged timber to your milk-run.

There are reasons beyond the “food factor” that muskies utilize this form of cover.  Fallen trees and brush, especially fresh material still having its leaf cover, offer an excellent source of shade.  Shade in and of itself can be a form of cover.  The resulting shadows in addition to any remaining leaves, thickets, and the like provide excellent ambush points for muskies to capitalize on with unsuspecting prey.  In lakes and reservoirs where surface temperatures skyrocket in the summer time, shade will also often mean cooler water.

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Northern Pike: Esox lucius

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_pike

 

Northern Pike
Northern pike
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Superorder: Protacanthopterygii
Order: Esociformes
Family: Esocidae
Genus: Esox
Species: E. lucius
Binomial name
Esox lucius
Linnaeus, 1758

The northern pike (Esox lucius, known simply as a pike in Britain, Ireland, and the USA, or as jackfish in Canada), is a species of carnivorous fish of the genus Esox (the pikes). They are typical of brackish and freshwaters of the northern hemisphere (i.e. holarctic in distribution).

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Muskellunge – Esox masquinongy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muskellunge

 

muskellunge
Esox masquinongy
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Actinopterygii
Superorder: Protacanthopterygii
Order: Esociformes
Family: Esocidae
Genus: Esox
Species: E. masquinongy
Binomial name
Esox masquinongy
Mitchill, 1824

The muskellunge (Esox masquinongy), also known as muskelunge, muscallonge, milliganong, or maskinonge (and often abbreviated “muskie” or “musky“), is a species of large, relatively uncommon freshwater fish of North America. The muskellunge is the largest member of the pike family, Esocidae. The common name comes from the Ojibwa word maashkinoozhe, meaning “ugly pike”, by way of French masque allongé (modified from the Ojibwa word by folk etymology), “elongated face.”[citation needed] The French common name is masquinongé or maskinongé.

The muskellunge is known by a wide variety of trivial names including Ohio muskellunge, Great Lakes muskellunge, barred muskellunge, Ohio River pike, Allegheny River pike, jack pike, unspotted muskellunge and the Wisconsin muskellunge.

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Kayak and the Believer®

by Russ Jones

Fishing from a kayak presents the angler with many challenges, fishing for large pike and musky from a kayak is nothing short of an adventure!  One of the most important challenges that needs to be overcome in any craft but especially in a kayak is bait presentation, trolling is one very effective method of presenting bait.  Aside from allowing the angler a break from casting big lures on heavy tackle, it also allows for more water coverage and ultimately more boated fish.  The same holds true for kayak fishing but without the assistance of a motor, reaching and maintaining the optimum speeds for the best presentation can be physically impossible (especially from some of the wider sit-on-top style of kayaks that have become popular amongst anglers).  There are two ways to overcome this, one is to add a motor but this isn’t the best solution for the purist like myself and will certainly disqualify you from entering any of the human-powered only kayak fishing tournaments that have started popping up in recent years.  The second solution is to use baits that perform well while being trolled at slower speeds.  I have found that most large musky lures generally need to be trolled at speeds of at least 4mph up to 8mph or even faster to get the best action out of them.  These lures simply can’t be trolled effectively by kayak, they can be casted but they can’t be trolled because a reasonable and sustainable paddling speed is somewhere in the 2mph range depending on the kayak and the paddler.  What I have found is that the Believer does have good action at this speed and therefore can be trolled effectively under paddle power, great news for all of the trophy kayak musky hunters out there!
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